Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Proposal From FWs Del Ducas

Our Organizing Approach Isn’t Working; So Let’s Try Something Radical

By Kristin and Jim Del Duca

Have you ever wondered why our union, which we consider to be the most valuable in the history of the planet, has become so small in numbers? With capitalism running rampant across the globe, slavery and exploitation at an all time high, our planet’s life support systems starting to melt down, and workers losing their jobs and homes at a record breaking pace, why aren’t we IWW members numbering in the tens of millions instead of a couple thousand? Wouldn’t you say these questions are vitally relevant?

We won’t waste time restating the OBU’s philosophy, history, or how time has proven that we, of all the unions in the world, understood long ago what needs to be done before the workers will enjoy their fair share of this earth’s bounty. There is no point in preaching to the choir. What we will put before you members is our observation that WE ARE FAILING to make measurable progress towards achieving our goal of a Worker’s World. We have the vision, experience, and organizational structure to accommodate and empower MILLIONS of workers. The fact that we only have a few thousand card-carrying Wobblies means that our current approach to organizing and recruitment simply isn’t working and should be scrapped A.S.A.P. I don’t know who said it originally, but some smart person once offered, “Insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result.” Well, we are crazy to continue what we have been doing when the results are worse than miserable.

When this union of ours was most powerful and admired, with hundreds of thousands of members and supporters, they didn’t have the Internet or cell-phones for communication. They had to stick a stamp on a letter or spend a day’s pay on an operator-assisted long distance telephone call. There was no such thing as a DVD. If they wanted to witness a speech they had to travel, wait, brave the cops, and hope they had train fare to get home. The list of inconveniences is a long one, but the point we want to bring up here is that despite all the trouble they got the word out to those who wanted to hear it and welcomed every worker who was ready to carry the Red Card and practice Direct Action. We’ll say this again: They got the word out so everyone knew about what the IWW is, and they welcomed everyone who wanted to be a part of our movement. So why aren’t we doing this today? We can hear the whines now…”But we’re doing everything we can….” To those spouting weak excuses for poor performance we must respectfully say “Like Hell we are!”

Our train of thought about this situation got started when we weren’t able to attend an Organizers Training seminar a few months ago. Yes, we had been puzzled before then about why practically no one had heard of the IWW and what we are fighting for. We had heard about the One Big Union from our elders and from references in old radical literature, but thought that the IWW had closed up shop half a century ago. It was a Google search on the Internet that led to our becoming members. Pure serendipity. We don’t think that depending on luck is the way to build a union. So the story goes back to how we missed the organizing seminar and thought “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a DVD that we could learn this information from?” Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? With the Internet and You-tube we could be empowering thousands of workers a day, with exponential growth in our unions membership. Even more importantly, we could be teaching Direct Action and Worker Solidarity on a worldwide scale, with the time-tested methods of the Old IWW, the union that was about RESULTS, and getting the goods NOW.

We promptly wrote to the Organizing Committee and GHQ, certain that an idea like this would catch fire like a dry forest in July. Much to our surprise, they didn’t like the idea. The most positive feedback we got from the Main Office folks was, (paraphrased) “A DVD to augment our organizing seminars might be good, but we feel that the skills of organizing are too complex to be communicated in any way other than in person.” Furthermore, if we wanted to make it we would be on our own. It is tempting to speculate that power and control is very important to some people within the very union that is founded upon de-centralization of power and individual self-determination within the collective. Ironic, isn’t it?

We were not only shocked at this stone-age attitude, but we also couldn’t believe that this view reflected that of the general membership. So we sent about a hundred emails out to Branches all over the world. Guess what? Those folks who wrote back were 100% in support of the idea. This would suggest that the elected officials in charge of organizing and recruitment are out of touch with current needs and wishes of the rank and file. That is why this article is being offered in the GOB. The Capitalists are no longer relying on door-to-door salesmen to disseminate their message. They use the most up to date marketing strategies and methods and they are kicking our collective tails in the propaganda and organizing arenas. For us to continue to rely upon Guru-to-disciple organizing will only yield more success for Capital.

The strategy that we are proposing is that of producing a radical recruitment/organizing video for free electronic and other distribution. A working title could be “How to be a Successful Wobbly and a Labor Radical”. It would teach who we are, where we came from, where we are all going together, and how to implement Direct Action, Worker Solidarity, and Getting the Goods. These principles apply to every worker around the globe and do not need to be country specific at all in terms of laws, etc. It is our heart-felt belief that there are literally hundreds of thousands of workers who will join the IWW if they can be made aware that we exist and MEAN BUSINESS! We also assert that hundreds of thousands of other workers who will not become IWW members would nevertheless use our strategies and tactics to better there own conditions if only supplied with the tools. What are we waiting for?

Maybe this idea is a lousy one and won’t produce the hoped for results. If it doesn’t prove successful we’ll dump it, learn from our mistakes, and try something else. The important thing here is that we have to become aggressive about achieving our goals and producing recognizable results. If we want to burn down the theoretical Capitalist forest then we have got to set ten thousand little fires in every part of it so there will be no chance of their killing the flames. Every DVD or download would be a match set to kindling. We want to see those little sparks flying all over the world, and soon.

Please contact us at delducja@gmail.com if you want to be part of this project. There is no question that we will need plenty of help. In Total Solidarity for the One Big Union, Kristin & Jim.


Montana Wobblies said...

While appreciating the enthusiasm and energy put into this proposal I am less convinced that our low membership numbers are direct result of our methods of communication. While I support the development of a video available for wide distribution a more thorough analysis would find the causes of worker-power decline spread among several contingent factors.The structure of capitalism has changed, post-cold war culture has changed, the nature of labor has changed and while the current crisis presents opportunities, a return to Wobbly numbers like those seen at the beginning of industrialism will take more than modern communication techniques. Again, not to say this wouldnt be a valuable tool, but i believe some IWW language, philosophy and strategy could use an overhaul and a process to do it is a first step to success.
Dave Jones

Jim Del Duca said...

So Dave...We are curious about what has brought you to your views. Can you give any examples from your personal experience of people turning away from the IWW due to our rhetoric? Can you give us some examples of how the language and philosophy of the IWW needs modification? We think these are big ideas and we need more information.
The Del Ducas

troutsky said...

One example that comes to mind is the phrase in the preamble that the "working class and the employing class have NOTHING in common". Apart from the difficulty defining class (for instance my wife is a "manager" at a non-profit with the token power to hire and fire)there is the fact that me and the owner of our little, local bookstore or auto repair shop (both good friends and budding radicals) have quite a bit in common.
When the IWW was building around turn of the century industry,logging, mining, manufacturing, workers really had nothing but labor-power to sell.Now many workers have investments, some private property, pension funds, a rental unit, mutual funds, etc which they believe elevate them out of the "working class" (often seen as a pejorative) into a nebulous "middle class".Should the IWW address their bourgeois concerns or talk of a classless society?

So while I think exposure and outreach are beneficial, we here in Missoula have been exposed for some time, monthly ads for meetings, May Day and other events, Free Speech actions etc. but we may have to face the fact we have tapped all the radicals. Can we radicalize "liberals"? Sure,but not with the speeches of Frank Little or Bill Haywood.
I think there is broad appeal in the language of democracy, revitalized and expanded into the workplace and wider economy.We should be talking about healthcare for all, pensions and green jobs creation as steps toward a future commonwealth. How about Employee Free Choice Act? I don't see IWW getting out in front on current issues. Dave

Nate said...

FW DelDuca,

I find it interesting that you find it "tempting to speculate that power and control is very important to some people within the" IWW, and that a desire for power and control is why people didn't like your idea. I think that temptation says as much about you as it does about others in the IWW.

What if I said "it is tempting to speculate that a feeling of frustrated self-importance motivates people to say mean things about other people who react to proposed idea with less than 100% enthusiasm"? Such speculation on my part would be insulting (and to be clear I am *not* suggesting that this is your motivation in making your remarks, I have no doubt that you think your idea is a good one) and would not help create a constructive conversation.

I make this remark to point out that your speculative aside is insulting and it makes people want to take you less seriously (me, anyway, and I'd bet I'm not alone). You sound like you're trying to score points and you're insulting other members of the union.

The fact of the matter is, the people who weren't very enthusiastic about your idea - myself included - just don't think the idea will work the way you think it will. That's all. It's just a disagreement. Speculating on others' motives doesn't add anything constructive to that.

As I've said to you before, I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this if someone makes the DVD project happen and it has the results that you think it will. Most projects in the IWW, including the current organizer training program, came from people taking initiative to work on something, getting results, spreading the word, working some more, getting more results, and eventually the projects became official. Why not write back to some of the other folk you heard from and build a committee to work on your idea?

I'll come back later to talk about the stuff FW Jones raises, I need to get off the computer just now.

Twin Cities GMB

Nate said...

hi again,
Sorry to post twice. I should have signed my last comment a bit differently. I am from the Twin Cities GMB, I'm also chair of the organizer training committee of the international, and I hope it was clear that I'm writing only in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the OTC or my branch.
take care,